A Message From the Board: Director at Large, Jessica Smith of SSI

Industry Volunteerism – an Insider’s Look
The definition of ‘volunteer’ is certainly daunting if not negative – “somebody who does something voluntarily, especially something undesirable” or “somebody who works without being paid”.

To be honest, I have been a passive member of several organizations for over 25 years. I read the publications to keep informed, attend the evening educational and networking events and represent my organization at trade shows, but I never considered how all of these opportunities got pulled together. I took for granted that the events that I enjoyed for years just happened. Then one day last year, I received a call from an industry colleague who enthusiastically told me that my name had come up in the nominating committee for a position on the NY MRA board. First reaction – flattered. Followed immediately by interest. Followed by competitive nature – would I win – and then frankly worried about how I could fit yet another commitment into my already full schedule.

I took the opportunity – ran for NY MRA office and viola, I now sit as one of the new Directors at Large. Now that I am involved, I wonder why I never took a more active part before. There is such a need for volunteers at all commitment levels – committee assistance, committee chairs, and one-off project help – something for every person. Truthfully, no prior experience is needed – just a desire to share your passion for our industry with veterans and novices alike.

I arrive at the first board meeting thinking I was an outsider for sure. Thankfully, the entire board does not turn over every year, so there are veterans mixed in with the new members. It was a welcome relief that I actually knew 90% of the board members – new and old – from my career. Each and every person involved is ardent about making a positive difference in our market research community. And to be honest, their enthusiasm is contagious. Each board member donates a bit of their time and energy to secure speakers who educate us. They create networking opportunities so that we can meet with others in the industry and trade business cards (hopefully to generate new business). They provide content that keeps us informed of changes in research and they are involved in the long term strategic direction of the market research industry. I have found the entire experience tremendously rewarding. On a high level, I have always understood the challenges that market research has faced, but ground level, I actually have the ability to create programs that can alter the tides. And personally, I have made several professional connections that have secured business for my organization. It is a benefit to work with people you know and trust.

It is easy to sit back and presume that since no one is directly asking, help is not needed. But I want to encourage you to act. Get involved. If attending events is all you can do for now, great. But if you can carve out a couple of hours a month, consider a higher level of participation. Help is still needed for this year. Ask around – participating and volunteering makes a difference not only to the industry, but to you, as a market research professional as well.

To get involved contact me or any member of the NY MRA board.